My husband and I have been desperate to find a good show to watch lately. With the deaths of Parenthood, Castle, and Downton Abbey, we’ve been totally show-less before bedtime.
But this week we watched the pilot for NBC’s This Is Us, a show that exposed and attacked the objectification of men—a much-needed attack, if you ask me. Here’s a link to the episode, but fair warning: The first scene shows a bare booty. Apparently I missed the memo allowing major networks to show bums in primetime.
Anyway, the show features a character named Kevin who has a great bod and a great smile and is the star of a sitcom called The Man-ny. As he acts, his director asks him over and over to take off his shirt for the scenes. His lines draw attention to his body, and at one point his ample pecs are offered up to a baby who’s ready to nurse. It’s all supposed to be light and funny and superficial. But Kevin decides to quit because of the way his character is portrayed.
In real life, there’s so much discussion about the objectification of women, and I’m happy to jump on that bandwagon and holler, “WE ARE MORE THAN OUR BODIES!” But I have never seen in pop culture any commentary about the objectification of men. It’s about time.
This kind of objectification is the latest in the assault on men. For decades dads in sitcoms have been portrayed as less intelligent than their female counterparts. Even on The Cosby Show (may Cosby’s reputation RIP), Dr. Cliff Huxtable is definitely the dumber parent—even though he’s a doctor. He’s funny, and that’s charming, but he’s not that smart. Almost no TV dads are, even on the Disney Channel.
The messages sent to viewers are obvious: Guys are dumb. Guys should have fancy, brag-worthy jobs. Guys without a great head of hair and defined muscles are sub par. Guys are reduced to daydreams about sex and sandwiches. It’s damaging to men, young men, and women who develop unrealistic expectations about what a real “man” is.
The cool thing about the This Is Us pilot is that Kevin’s value isn’t wrapped up in his physique. His value isn’t in having a “cool” job. His value is in his values. That’s a great message for men like my husband and those older and younger than him who feel the pressure to be fit and have a great career or … well, what else is there for guys, besides having a trophy wife?
So kudos to This Is Us writers and producers for addressing this unaddressed issue. It’s a step in the right direction for media. After all, pop culture has contributed to society’s hypersexualization — or is it society’s hypersexualization that informed pop culture? Either way, I don’t like it for my husband or my kids. •